You know where you are with the frighteningly prolific Jah Wobble. No Robbie-style big band tributes, angst filled ballads or thrashy guitars for him. No, the endearingly barmy Jah can always be relied upon to produce dub-heavy bass-centric masterpieces that sound like nothing on this earth whilst simultaneously sounding comfortably familiar.
Shout At The Devil, his second record in less than six months, is a continuation of that tradition, and is another triumph for the former Public Image Ltd bassist.
Wobble has had a long tradition of producing outstanding collaborations, and this record is no exception. Although there’s nothing here to touch Visions Of You (performed by Sinead O’Connor), the two tracks with Natacha Atlas come pretty damn close. Fans of Transglobal Underground‘s work and Atlas’ recent solo album Ayeshenti need no telling how special her voice is, but here she sounds better than ever. She fits in beautifully to the title track which combines Arab instrumentation, such as the darabuka, with one of the catchiest keyboard riffs you’ll hear all year. All the while, Atlas’ voice swoops and swirls while the listener finds their hips uncontrollably swaying.
Atlas’ other track, La Citadelle, is more restrained, but no less beautiful. It’s strange, spaced-out guitar, provided by another Transglobal regular, Count Dubulah, fills the background, while Wobble’s bass grows more dominant as the song progresses. It’s all very eerie, slightly strange and quite lovely.
Vocal duties are also shared between Shahin Badar (on the tremendous opener Hayat) and Nina Miranda (on the hypnotic Once Upon A Time In The East). Both do a sterling job, but it is Atlas who stands out.
That said, it’s on the purely instrumental tracks that Wobble really flies. Mountains Of The Moon starts off as a typical Wobble dub track, but as the track expands through six minutes, ever more improvisation comes to the fore. Wobble manages to pull this off without being self-indulgent, which also applies to the following Cleopatra King Size, with it’s tinny guitar and heavy percussion. Maghreb Rockers begins like a Bollywood soundtrack before transforming into a dark rumble in the jungle.
Wobble is refreshingly ego-free throughout the record – his trademark bass never threatens to swamp proceedings, and all the collaborators on the record are given equal writing credits.
All the tracks seem to meld seamlessly into one another, giving the record a fine degree of consistency. It’s the sort of record you can close your eyes and float away to, and never falls into the trap of being bland. Fans of The Orb, and of the aforementioned Transglobal Underground, will lap this up. Challenging, eclectic, and damn talented, Jah rules.